Sessions began bright and early on day two and we were very thankful for the coffee provided in the main lobby. Our local homebrew club was scheduled to pour mid-day in the Social Club (located within the main Expo area, where up to three clubs could pour up to 12 taps at a time of their offerings). Since I’m not a homebrewer, per se, I signed up to pour for a few hours so that the hardcore brewers could fully participate in the conference.
It was a fun time pouring for everyone who came up to our booth. We had an array of homebrews, ranging from a Gose (“goes-ah”), IPAs, to higher alcohol wood aged brews. Some of the club members hung out to hear the responses from others and made connections and I got to talk to a lot of people I would have not been able to if I had not been behind the bar. It was a great experience. I was bummed to miss several sessions, but they are available online to view soon because I am an AHA member!
After my shift was over, I realized I was in fact hungry and needing to eat. Jon and I got some food to split, but then I realized I wanted something lighter and wanted to get off my feet for a bit (standing on a concrete floor for hours is not kind). I headed up towards my hotel (thank you for being close!) and headed into Citizen Baker, where I was able to have a fresh turkey sandwich on fresh homemade bread and salad (possibly while watching TV in bed to rest my feet). 😉
Break was over and back to the conference for more sessions and expo time! We decided not to attend the AHA members meeting, opting for a dinner break for a fabulous happy hour menu at Altabira on the rooftop of Hotel Eastlund.
Our local homebrew club had a booth for club night. Club Night is (in)famously discussed at meetings and it’s a showcase of your local brews (you can opt in for pouring your club’s homebrew for Social Club, Club Night, and Knockout). Instead of our usual jockey box, our club opted for a more permanent booth to be constructed for this event and beyond. Our club is “Central Oregon Homebrewers Organization”, COHO for short, and a member had the back of a boat constructed with a motor that has speakers and tap handles out of fishing poles. (Because “coho” is a type of salmon.) It was quite impressive.
There were many other clubs that had gone all out as well. There were superheros, and what took the cake (IMHO) is the three local Portland area clubs with a Western theme. The most impressive was the Oregon Brew Crew with a large display that included a wooden bar, a digital display of their offerings, a (fake) rattle snake, a cow’s skull and a working video game of The Oregon Trail.
In addition to the impressive booths, there were obviously the beers, meads and ciders to try! I had a fabulous cherry mead and several other meads and several ciders that tasted amazing!
We again shut down the house with lights coming on and an announcement that day two was over.
Saturday, day three, started again bright and early with sessions and the Expo. I knew I wanted to be in the Sierra Nevada session mid-morning to hear about Ken Grossman’s “Lessons I’ve Learned in 50 Years of Brewing” and it was a not to be missed session. I was able to get seats up front and again, another inspiring talk from a leader in the industry. He talked about the trials and hardships he went through to become one of the leading breweries in the industry today. Never give up on your dreams!
I had wanted to go to the FemALE Homebrewers meet and greet, but lunch was calling. We stopped in just as the meeting was breaking up and I heard it was hard to meet and greet due to the “Wings eating competition” going on in the same area. I do know they took a picture and I’m anxious to see that if it comes up and how many women brewers were at the meet and greet. I know a lot of women brewers and they are fierce and committed to their craft and I want to see the scales tipped evenly at events such as this and beyond.
I opted to go to the National Homebrew Awards ceremony and Jon went to a session on hops. They were both in the same area at the same time. If you went to the session, I’m sure you can watch the awards playback and vice versa. I hear Ted gave a great talk on hops!
The last official event was the Knockout party. It was held in a large ballroom with all the leftover beers, meads and ciders that were judged for the competition!
What I liked about this conference is that you can always find something to attend or do. There are an array of topics, ranging from the brewing process, ingredients, how to create recipe formulations, styles and even how to go pro. There are also club sessions and homebrew industry sessions, so if you’re a beginner or wanting to expand knowledge, there’s something here for you in the sessions or the Expo with businesses displaying their goods and services for homebrewers. I LOVED that there was more than beer, there were some fantastic sours, meads and ciders that you all are brewing! It was a fantastic time, learning about the growing industry and I’m glad I went!
Happy Monday! I hope you were able to beat the heat this weekend, and are geared up for another hot week ahead. Here’s the Oregon beer news for this Monday, July 16, to help kick off the week; as usual I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with the latest news as I find it, so check back often.
Von Ebert Brewing (Portland) is holding the grand opening of its east side brewpub today, kicking off at 5pm. Von Ebert is relatively new, having replaced Fat Head’s in Portland’s Pearl District and according to Brewpublic, this second location is “Located at the former site of RingSide Grill at Glendoveer Golf Course, this area of town in the Hazelwood neighborhood is ready for a full service brewpub.” The New School also has a good first look writeup on the new location, including details on pricing and menu. Tonight’s grand opening will feature cake and apparently “free kisses” from llamas. How could you resist?
Oregon Craft Beer Month continues, and McMenamins is celebrating at all of its Oregon locations with weekly beer specials featuring $4.75 pints all day for the special category of the week (excluding high gravity selections and brewers reserve series). This week, from July 15-21, the featured beer style is IPA, which is sure to be popular. That means any of the (non-high gravity) IPAs such as Sunflower IPA are a great deal this week.
This Saturday, July 21, Three Creeks Brewing in Sisters is celebrating its tenth anniversary! The party takes place at the brewery’s production facility from 2 to 8pm, and features a family-friendly set up with dunk tanks, bounce houses, games, and more, and of course plenty of beer. The 10th Anniversary Imperial IPA will be a featured pour and you should expect a few original throwbacks as well. It’ll be a fun time so head over to Central Oregon to celebrate.
Belmont Station (Portland): The bottleshop and beer bar’s 12th annual Puckerfest kicks off this week! This annual celebration of sour starts on Thursday, July 19, and runs through Tuesday the 24th. You’ll want to be there for it! “In addition to our long-time contributors such as Ale Apothecary, Block 15, Double Mountain, Upright, de Garde and so many others, we are bringing in a lot of great breweries that we usually don’t see around these parts for the event this year, including Stoup, Hill Farmstead, Wunderkammer Bier, The Rare Barrel and more! Instead of having “themes” each day, we are just going to put all the great beers on tap and rotate them through as quickly as you can enjoy them. So it will be key to keep an eye on the live draft list on our website to make sure you don’t miss anything! That being said, we do have a couple of special events happening during Puckerfest: Thursday July 19: We kick things off with some tasty krieks and other delights from Double Mountain, and, as is tradition, they will be bringing fresh cherries for us to munch on. There will be a whole bunch of other great sours on tap as well!”
Ochoco Brewing (Prineville) now has crowlers! “Welcome to Monday Everyone! We now have a 32oz Crowlers available here at the pub! That’s right, you can get anyone of our 14 locally crafted brews in 32oz can here at the pub! Good to go on the river or your next camp out. Stop by and check’m out.”
Jon and I attended the 2018 Homebrew Con a few weeks ago. What a fabulous event to have to bring together beer geeks with industry professionals and other fellow enthusiasts for three days of fun, demonstrations, sessions, parties and of course homemade fermented beverages.
After a longer than normal vetting process (about three times as long as listed), we were approved with media credentials to attend the 40th annual National Homebrew Conference on June 28-30. Our hotel had a room ready as we arrived in Portland, Oregon and we checked in and had a quick bite to eat before heading down to the Oregon Convention Center.
Check in was quick and easy with no lines in either the media or regular attendance around 12:30ish. We got our name badges and then were sent off through the line for a bag of swag, a conference booklet, and a commemorative beer (from Rogue, called Charlie 2018 brewed just for the occasion) and a 2018 glass to sip beverages from.
A note: some friends of ours that arrived around 3pm came to find that the conference was already out of booklets and glasses, and received glasses from previous years, which were a different shape and I noted at least one other additional smaller glass style. An order mishap is what was told to our friends who had arrived about four hours after the opening time on opening day for the general public. They were disappointed, but quickly moved on and I was able to give my booklet to someone who wanted it for commemorative sake. Tip: Arrive early to events and festivals for the best selection!
There were sessions and meet ups the night before for industry people, homebrew shops, and BJCP judges before the general conference started on Thursday. It’s nice to see all included in a conference, industry and public and then they mesh together on the Expo floor.
Jon and I went to explore the Expo floor was met with an immediate line and went around and through. Apparently, there were several stations to collect ingredients to brew your own batch of beer of “You Can Call Me Ale” that was brewed by Breakside Brewing and served on the Expo floor at one of the pickup spots! That’s so cool! My bag was weighing down with the specialty swag and beer, so I had time to go run it up to my hotel room across the street and drop a bunch of weight off. Jon continued to walk around and we met up before walking down the long hallways to the first session of our day. There were many sessions to choose from and if you weren’t able to be in two places at once or unable to attend this year, AHA members will have access to the recordings at a later date.
A quick break and then onto the Keynote Address and Welcome Toast, featuring none other than the Godfather himself: Charlie Papazian! We were a few rows back and center and it was quite a speech and presentation (not to mention entrance on a cloud!) from the founder of the Brewers Association! You could feel the energy in the room (fooooaaaaammmm) and pitchers of Charlie 2018 was passed around to toast to the conference and Charlie himself.
A quick dinner break, which consisted of changing to direction to the Oregon Cider Awards a few blocks up the street to capture the winner’s announcement in person and then off to the Kickoff party! Phew! By the time we arrived back at the conference center, the party was in full swing. We went around to the commercial booths, tasting their offerings and the best was worth the wait at the long line at pFriem booth that was pouring an Oude Kriek!
An announcement that came over the loud speaker at 10:55pm as well as the lights coming on overhead, signaled day one of the conference had come to an end.
TGIF — even if that “F” is Friday the 13th! I hope everyone’s ready for a hot weekend (it’s approaching triple digit temps here in Bend) and have ways to beat the heat. For beer ideas here’s the Oregon news roundup for this weekend; I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with news, so check back from time to time. And as usual if you have any news to share please send it my way!
Friday the 13th
McMenamins 23rd Avenue Bottle Shop (Portland) is hosting the latest specialty McMenamins bottle release from 6 to 8pm Friday, featuring Cerberus Wild Ale out of the Edgefield brewery: “Tart and funky, this three-headed beast is a blend of a Golden Ale, a Nectarine Brett Pale and Ginger Hibiscus Gose. All three beers were aged together for two years in the Cerberus barrel, a former Hogshead Whiskey Barrel from the Edgefield Distillery, and inoculated with a Belgian Wild Ale strain, Brettanomyces Bruxellensis, to create a pleasant and earthy tang that pervades this balanced beer. The Cerberus barrel has its own singular character, having housed Wild Ales over the past seven years.”
Hermiston Brewing in Eastern Oregon is celebrating its five-year anniversary on Friday: “Come help us celebrate our 5 year Anniversary of being in the Brew Business. Live music from La Grandes Standard Deviation, One Eyed Jack will be available for a very limited time, & a Growler Fill giveaway! Come join us in the fun Hermiston peeps!” The fun kicks off at 5pm. Congrats!
Portland’s Loyal Legion is celebrating its third anniversary all weekend long (technically it started on the 12th) with, among other things, a 30+ tap takeover with Breakside Brewery, $3 food, beer, and whiskey specials, a street fair block party, prizes and giveaways, and more. Sure to be a lot of fun all weekend long!
Montavilla Brew Works (Portland) is celebrating its third anniversary on Saturday all day long: “Join us on Saturday, July 14th as Montavilla Brew Works turns three! Raffle prizes; New draft beer releases; Vintage/Aged draft beer releases; Packaged beer discounts; Food truck; …and more! Stay tuned for more details including our 3rd Anniversary taplist! Free admission. 21+ only” Congrats!
Saraveza (Portland) is hosting the first-ever Summer Strawberry Beer Festival on Saturday, “featuring over a dozen rare, sweet and juicy and in-season beers made with the wonderful fruit. The Summer Strawberry Beer Fest will begin at noon at Saraveza and 3pm at the Bad Habit Room and run until 10pm. Tickets are only $10 and include a custom Perfection 9oz glass with 4 drink tickets if purchased in advance (3 tickets at the door). Additional drink tickets are $1.50 or four for just $5.” Pick up your tickets online in advance here.
Portland’s Ruse Brewing is celebrating its opening day on Satuday: “Come help us celebrate Ruse’s opening day! Beer, music, beer, eats, beer. Saturday July 14, 2018, 12-9 pm (all ages 12-7).”
Ex Novo Brewing (Portland) celebrates its fourth anniversary this Saturday (anniversaries all around!), all day long: “It’s year number four and we return to celebrate in the streets with live music, three packaged beer releases, unique and rare beers on tap, games, cake! Admission is free and open to the public, all ages welcome.” Ex Novo also broke ground this week on its New Mexico brewery.
One of the most anticipated beer openings in Bend in recent days/months/years is Boneyard Beer‘s long-awaited pub. Located at 1955 NE Division Street in Bend, the location was formerly a Chinese restaurant as well as a Texas Hold’em poker room and a short-lived taqueria, and was purchased by Boneyard owner Tony Lawrence at the beginning of 2016.
Various permit delays pushed out the expected opening and at the beginning of this year, things got back on track and moved quickly. Naturally the company has been fielding the question over and over again as to when the pub would open.
That question has been answered, and the Boneyard Pub opened up to the public this week! (The public opening follows a series of soft opening practice runs earlier in the week, which we were lucky enough to attend.)
The pub features 16 taps of Boneyard brews, cider, and a full bar. The food menu features food just as you’d expect Boneyard to serve, fusing a variety of flavorful styles with a focus on Asian and Latin American cuisine. We didn’t sample extensively from the menu, but what we had was good (ribs and salmon).
Here’s a first look in pictures of the new Boneyard Pub:
One of the fixtures of the Oregon beer scene is the annual Oregon Brewers Festival in Portland during the last full weekend in July. This year’s OBF kicks off in two weeks, and there are some (big) changes taking place.
First, the OBF has been scaled back to four days, running from Thursday to Sunday. The last few years, the festival started on Wednesday and ran for five days. However, according to the organizers: “Attendance has peaked the last few years, so it made sense, both in terms of economics and manpower, to cut back to a four-day festival.” This makes sense and it will be interesting to see if this will have any impact on the crowded it gets early in the first couple of days.
Next, the biggest change of the brewfest: there will be no printed program this year! Here’s the quote from the source:
Our program annually uses more than 140,000 pieces of paper. This year, we’ve gone green and created a digital app that has full beer descriptions (search by style, take notes, find on the map). You can also chat with friends, post to the wall, check out the music lineup, and more. Download it at https://download.socio.events/event/MjAwMQ. We know this will not be popular with everyone, so those who want to make a list in advance can visit https://tinyurl.com/y7obn53a to access a Google sheet with all the beer descriptions and stats, which can be downloaded for sorting and printing. We will also be handing out a one-page printed list of beers by trailer and by brewery, with a map of the venue, free for everyone at the event; this is another first!
I approve of this, as most people have smartphones and let’s face it, the program was a good reference but I rarely pulled it out to fumble with it while wandering the tent in search of beer. Being able to search on an app and have one less thing to carry makes sense.
However I haven’t yet downloaded the app to look at it myself, so I’m merely speculating until I do. Your mileage may vary.
The third change is the addition of cider and wine to the OBF for the first time. There will be two ciders from Portland’s own Cider Riot and Reverend Nat’s, and wine from Eola Hills (a red and a white) and Serra Vineyards (a white and a rosé). The cider will get the same token treatment as the beer, one token for a taster and four tokens for a full pour, while wine will cost five tokens for a full pour with no tasters.
The rest of the festival details will be familiar to folks: gates and taps open at noon each day, and there is no cost to enter. The mugs cost $7 (required to drink) and tokens are $1 apiece (sold in bundles, usually). Mugs and tokens are cash only and credit cards and checks will not be accepted.
There will be 80 brewers pouring beer, spread out over Tom McCall Waterfront Park in downtown Portland. Five of these breweries are from Baja, California Mexico: Agua Mala, Border Psycho, Insurgente, Transpeninsular, and Wendlandt.
Start planning your OBF weekend now; I’ll be posting soon with a closer look at the breweries attending this year, and what they’ll be pouring—and of course my own picks of what to seek out.
The heat is moving in on this 12th of July, so make sure to find things to do to keep cool. Perhaps today’s Oregon beer news for this hot Thursday can help out. I will be periodically updating this post throughout the day, so check back occasionally to find out if there are any more cool-beer happenings going on.
Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene) is hosting its Pints for a Cause today at the tasting room to benefit Burrito Brigade: “Join us at the Tasting Room for Pints for a Cause! From noon to 10pm, $1 from every pint sold in the Tasting Room will go to Burrito Brigade. ‘Burrito Brigade is a non-profit 501c(3) organization whose mission is to feed the hungry and unhoused in Oregon by hand-delivering vegan meals for free. There is enough food in Oregon to feed every hungry person, but there is a lack of access. We are committed to engaging the community in the fight to end hunger through a network of volunteers and partnerships with organizations. Burrito Brigade works with, accepts donations from, and provides for the public, regardless of housing status, ability, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, social status, addiction, criminal background, religious affiliation or age. It is our belief that food is a basic human right.'”
Belmont Station (Portland) is hosting a Melvin Brewing release and fundraiser today from 5 to 8pm: “Melvin’s latest addition to their core lineup is “Crafted on Wyoming’s West Coast … with 100-percent lupulin cryopowder, we hit the cross-fader between old-school brewing skills and new-school hop technology, creating this tasty remix guaranteed to keep your head ringing.” Sure, it will be delicious. But it also will be life-changing. Maybe not for you, but for people benefiting from the great works of RIP Medical Debt. RIP is working to raise enough in donations by the end of 2018 to purchase and abolish $50 million in unpayable veteran and military personnel medical debt in America. Because of their buying power, $100 in donations can forive $10,000 in debt. And all the money raised through Your IPA sales in Oregon stays in Oregon! So come taste this futuristic approach to homegrown beer. And help get some Oregonians back on their feet financially!”
Bend’s Deschutes Brewery is starting its own food cart lot on a corner of its production brewery property (one of the odder beer news items I’ve seen lately): “Deschutes Brewery is calling it a “unique experience” because it is going to have a different theme for each season of the year. Right now, for example, it will be called “The Marina.” The food cart lot will be on the gravel lot bordered by Shevlin-Hixon Drive and Southwest Columbia Street, across from Riverbend Park. It will only be in one corner, so it will not spread across the entire property that is used for overflow parking by river floaters. “The Marina” will feature two to three sailboats, but this experience will be replaced in September, when the weather begins to change, and another themed experience will be put in.” That is definitely going to be an experience…
Wayfinder Beer (Portland) teamed up with Holy Mountain Brewing to brew a collaboration IPA that is being released today: “Wayfinder/Holy Mountain Collaboration – “As Above, So Below Culled IPA” Head brewers Kevin (Wayfinder) and Colin (Holy Mountain) are longtime friends and used to homebrew together in Seattle. They got together to see what would happen if they hopped a beer with juicy, new school hops but fermented it as cold as possible? That was the inspiration for our Culled IPA. Mosaic, Vic Secret and Cryo-Simcoe blended masterfully and never warmed to preserve the hop aromatics and restrain any non-hop aromas. It contributes to massive head-retention, clean bitterness and epic drinkability. Juicyfruit, Ripe Mango, Resin, Grapefruit… Science. 14P 6.0% ABV 50BU. Swing down to Wayfinder this Thursday and have a beer with both the brewers! Plus 4 Holy Mountain beers on tap!”
Bine Valley Brewing (Salem) has a new beer available: “Meet our newest IPA, Alpha Melon. One might think we added melons to this juicy hazy haze, but we didn’t. We let the addition of Ekuanot, BRU-1, and El Dorado hops do the talking for us. Come try one today. We have a feeling it’ll go quick!”
pFriem Family Brewers (Hood River) has partnered with Zupan’s Markets to release the sixth Farm-to-Market beer in its private label line. From the release: “This Northwest style IPA is inspired by the summer season and packed with notes of papaya, ripe melon, and honey. Perfect to pair with casual summer fare such as fish tacos, burgers, and fries. This IPA is currently on shelves at all three Zupan’s Markets locations in 16.9ml bottles for $5.99. With only 125 cases produced, it will be on shelves only for a limited time. The pFriem team will sample the new Farm-to-Market beer alongside other pFriem favorites:
July 13 from 3 – 6 p.m. (Burnside: 2340 W Burnside St, Portland)
July 14 from 3 – 6 p.m. (Macadam: 7221 SW Macadam Ave, Portland)
July 27 from 3 – 6 p.m. (Lake Grove: 16380 Boones Ferry Rd, Lake Oswego)”
Sunriver Brewing is hosting a contest to name its next beer: “That’s right folks! We are giving you the chance to name our next beer, an English Summer Ale that will release at the end if the month. What you will win: Naming beer, Sunriver Brewing Company Steel Belted Cooler. Here is what you need to do to enter:
-Follow/Like Sunriver Brewing Co
-Write clever beer name
-Tag 2 friends in this post!
In order to win- you MUST follow all three of those steps! So do what you need to do to get clever and give us what you got! Winner will be announced on 7/24/2018 at 5pm!”
Happy Wednesday! Here is the news in beer from around Oregon for this hump day, July 11. As usual I’ll periodically update this post throughout the day with any additional news as I find it; check back from time to time for the latest.
Hopworks Urban Brewery (Portland) is hosting a beer release for two new beers today at all of its locations: Make Haze While the Sun Shines and Honey Lager. “On July 11th, we are excited to release the 5th installment of our 2018 Rotating Hazy Series as well as our newest in the Win-Win beer series. Both Honey Lager and Make Haze While the Sun Shines are soon to be your new summer favorites. Come by all three pubs at 5pm to be the first to try these exciting new limited release beers. Honey Lager – The newest beer in our Win-Win series, our Honey Lager is a crisp and refreshing lager fermented dry with blueberry honey from our B Corp friends at GloryBee – a company with a strong environmental commitment to research colony collapse disorder. Also available in limited 22oz bottles. 5.2% ABV. Make Haze While the Sun Shines – Hazy IPA brewed with organic wheat malt and loads of Citra, Organic Lemon Drop, and Organic Cascade hops for a big lemon and tangerine flavor. Also available to go in limited 16oz cans. 7% ABV.”
Deschutes Brewery (Bend) is throwing a Cheers to 30 Years Tap Attack at Bend’s newest food truck pod, On Tap, tonight from 5 to 7pm: “Please join us on Wednesday, July 11th from 5-7pm at On Tap for a celebration of Deschutes Breweries 30 years of making legendary beers right here in beautiful Bend, Oregon! Deschutes brews on tap for the evening will be Twilight Summer Ale, Fresh Squeezed IPA, Fruit Fight Hazy IPA, Black Raspberry Sour, Hummzinger Kombucha Radler, 3 Blind Vice Bavarian Hef, and Wayfarer Cider. There will be several Deschutes brewers on site to answer all your questions and plenty of sweet swag to raffle off. Show up in your best vintage Deschutes apparel to show your love!”
I’ve always had an affinity for Cream Ale, that oddly-named light American ale style with nineteenth century roots. All too often it seems to be nudged out of the way by the more prosaically-named Blonde or Golden Ale in many a brewery’s lineup however.
Admittedly, digging into the style reveals there is not much difference with these labels, at least in terms of appearance, strength, drinkability, and so on. Where you start to see divergence is in ingredients, process, and the historical background of the Cream Ale style.
I’ve been playing with recipes for it over the years and recently brewed my latest iteration, a picture of which you can see at the top of this post (and which I recently brought to the National Homebrew Conference in Portland and shared it on Club Night). So I figured it was time to write a deep dive post on the style, and share my recipe.
Whenever you start digging into the history of beer styles, you’re potentially stepping into a minefield, depending on the source of your information. Much of the early homebrew writing repeated myth and folklore, or got the facts wrong, or perhaps simply made wrong assumptions. As such, teasing out the history of a given style can be challenging, though it’s definitely interesting to trace how the conventional wisdom evolves as more rigorous research and examination is applied.
Cream Ale is a great example, and as a relatively young style it is somewhat less fraught than trying to adequately cover something such as IPA or Porter. Generally considered one of the few American indigenous beer styles, it has its roots in the later 1800s. And “cream” has nothing whatsoever to do with Cream Ale; that was as much a marketing name as anything.
Even now there are differing ideas as to the origins of the style. The main school of thought holds that nineteenth century ale brewers, faced with stiff competition from the runaway popularity of lagers sparked by the mid-century immigration of German brewers to America, crafted an ale version of American lager to appeal to lager drinkers.
Among some historical points of contention over the years are whether the style was lagered, or fermented warm then lagered, and whether ale and lager yeasts were mixed (or started with an ale, then finished with a lager). Blending with other ales (or lagers?) was also rumored.
Jeff Alworth, in The Beer Bible, affirms the style as a pale lager competitor: “Like steam beer, cream ales were made to resemble lagers, but they were fermented variously with ale yeast, lager yeast, or a mixture of yeast strains.” Alworth also notes the ample use of corn in American brewing at the time, which helped to counteract the protein-heavy, inelegant American six-row barley.
Randy Mosher, in his book Radical Brewing (which should be on every homebrewer’s shelf), has a slightly different view:
The cream ale style is kind of amalgam of the English-derived American ale style, as brewed by German brewmasters in American lager breweries. It’s my view that many of them simply applied their experience with German ales such as Kölschbier, and voilà, Cream Ale. Some of the early brewery advertising indicates that cream ales were often a blend of stock ale with lager…
It does seem more likely to me that Cream Ale emerged as a style from ale breweries to compete with pale lagers, rather that German lager brewers crafting their version of a pale ale as Mosher speculates. Which makes sense: breweries, then and now, tend to follow the trends and the money to sell what the consumer wants (look at the hazy NE-style IPA trend today). What would be the motivation for a lager brewery to produce an ale?
In The Essentials of Beer Style, Fred Eckhardt defined the top-fermented blonde or golden ale style and considered it to be traditional Cream Ale, and wrote:
Traditional cream ale was “present use ale,” or sometimes “lively ale,” a real ale draft beer of gravity at 13/1053, which was krausened with beer wort, rather than primed with sugar, and served in taverns directly from the wood. Today’s cream ale is a far cry [Eckhardt here refers to the use of “cream ale” to describe what he called American Sparkling Lager], but this style, which I have labeled blonde or golden ale fits that description fairly well, if we allow for the American style of service rather than real ale from the wood.
In other words, he defines classic (pre-Prohibition) Cream Ale as warm fermented, young, with lively carbonation, and served on draft (from wooden casks). No mention of blending with other beers or mixed use of ale and lager yeasts.
Finally, the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines has this to say on the history of the style:
A sparkling or present-use ale that existed in the 1800s and survived prohibition. An ale version of the American lager style. Produced by ale brewers to compete with lager brewers in Canada and the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest states. Originally known as sparkling or present use ales, lager strains were (and sometimes still are) used by some brewers, but were not historically mixed with ale strains. Many examples are kräusened to achieve carbonation. Cold conditioning isn’t traditional, although modern brewers sometimes use it.
Stats and Style
The style itself is pretty straightforward: for all intents and purposes, it is an ale version of (light) American lager. Being an American style, it then follows that American ingredients are used, including that native grain, corn.
Charlie Papazian listed Cream Ale as a style in the 1991 edition of The New Complete Joy of Homebrewing, though it’s a brief entry. I’ve included the numbers he provides in the table below; note that the first BJCP numbers look like they are based on these.
Cream Ale appears in the (original?) 1997 BJCP Style Guidelines, as category 3C, slotted under Light Ales. The guidelines described it as, “An adaptation of the American light lager style, chiefly involving fermentation of the beer as an ale followed by a period of cold conditioning.” In the 2004 revision of those guidelines, it was category 6A, under Light Hybrid Beer. And for 2015, it was moved to category 1C, under Standard American Beer.
Interesting there’s not a lot of style drift over the years in these numbers, though oddly the 2004 BJCP guideline show a relative spike in IBUs before dropping in 2015, and a slight drop in alcohol occurred at that time while color became marginally darker.
Overall it is clearly a lighter beer, in color, strength, and hopping levels. It should be more aromatic and flavorful than standard American lagers, but still quite mellow and easy drinking across the board. It should be lively, well attenuated, and clear (where a bit of lagering can come into play). Commercial examples that the BJCP 2015 guidelines list are Genesee Cream Ale, Liebotschaner Cream Ale, Little Kings Cream Ale, New Glarus Spotted Cow, Old Style, and Sleeman Cream Ale.
Brewing Cream Ale
There are several approaches to brewing this style, and it should be no surprise that Prohibition is mixed up in them. In fact, before Prohibition these were stronger, hoppier beers; Alworth describes them as such:
Cream ales in the nineteenth century were study beers of 14° Plato (1.057 sp. gr.) and 6% alcohol. They were relatively bitter, loaded with more hops than the porters of the era. In the nineteenth century, Cluster hops were king, and they would have added an American flavor to an American beer. [T]hey were crisp and clean, but had a bit of ale fruitiness.
Modern, post-Prohibition examples fall lighter and onto the spectrum of examples listed by the BJCP (above) — if you’re aiming to brew a Genesee clone. On the other hand, modern craft brewed version of Cream Ales, or at least beers branded as such, might well be all-barley ales that more closely resemble blondes: more hops, more flavor, more body. Pelican Brewing’s Kiwanda Cream Ale, billed as a Pre-Prohibition Cream Ale, is brewed entirely with barley (and includes some dextrin malt for mouthfeel) and has 25 IBUs. It’s a great beer that I enjoy, but BJCP judges don’t consider it a category 1C Cream Ale, and if you look at the list of awards it has accrued over the years, the categories it was entered in are all over the board: Golden or Blonde Ale, English Summer Ale, German Kölsch, Golden Ale/Canadian-Style Ale, and, yes, Cream Ale.
(To be fair, Kiwanda does more closely match the pre-Prohibition style Alworth describes above—save for the lack of corn in its bill. So… is it a proper pre-Prohibition style? I would say yes. Corn or other adjuncts, while common, are not required.)
My approach is fairly classic, and I’ve tempered it towards simplicity over the years. You’re aiming for a lighter style using American ingredients, so that means base malt(s) only. You can get away with just using American two-row malt if you like, but an arguably more authentic version will contain American six-row as well, so I opted for a blend.
And of course—the corn. In my view any proper recipe for this style must have corn in it, whether the grain itself or even just corn sugar (cane sugar will do). BJCP suggests that the adjunct can consist of up to 20% of the grain bill. Since corn (to me) is an essential component of this style, I go with the full 20% and use flaked corn.
The guidelines also say you can use up to 20% glucose or other sugars in the boil as well. I included table sugar with an early version of this recipe, but I don’t know that it really contributes that much to the finished beer other than alcohol strength and drier body. Of course, a shortcut to using corn in the mash is to use corn sugar in the boil instead for a similar result, so if that works for you, go for it.
Hops are dealers choice for bittering, and should be American for aroma and flavor to stay true to the style. If you were going for a truly pre-Prohibition style, go with all Cluster hops. For this recipe, I went with EKG for bittering and Cascade at knockout.
Recipe: Billy Chinook Cream Ale (all-grain)
My targets in developing this recipe were an OG of 1.042 to 1.045, a mash temperature of 150°F for a standard infusion mash (you could go lower, 146-8 for a drier body), and IBUs of 20.
4 pounds American six-row malt (53%)
2 pounds American two-row malt (27%)
1.5 pounds flaked corn (20%)
1 ounce East Kent Goldings Hops (4.84% AA) – 60 minutes – 4.84 AAU
1 ounce Cascade hops – aroma (0 minutes)
Wyeast 2565 Kölsch or Wyeast 1007 German Ale
Now, if you wanted to go really old school here, you could use only six-row malt as your base. And I suppose you could do the full adjunct cereal mash with corn grits as well if you’re truly adventurous. I might even try that myself someday, but for now I’m happy with flaked corn.
When putting together a recipe, I’m usually working with the hops that I happen to have on hand and adjust accordingly. Feel free to mix up the hop variety and schedules as you see fit; I’ve included the AAU numbers for them so you can approximate the same targets for similar IBUs. Remember this isn’t a hop bomb so you don’t need much, though being an American style that little kick of Cascade for the knockout is a good touch. If you were aiming for a more historic version, seek out Cluster hops for your base, and possibly finishing.
This is a single infusion mash at 148-150° for one hour. After the hour, sparge and draw off six to eight gallons of wort for the boil (of course adjust the amount you need based on your own evaporation rate). A 60 minute boil is sufficient, though if you wanted to boil longer to develop some kettle caramelization you could certainly aim for up to 90 minutes. I still with 60 to minimize any potential darkening in color.
Once boil is complete, chill, transfer to your primary fermenter, and aerate thoroughly. Pitch your yeast as close to 68-70° as possible, or lower if you can manage it.
My original recipe called for Wyeast 2565 Kölsch because as a German ale yeast it produces a clean lager-like profile while retaining a bit of fruity ale esters, which is largely what we want. However if you also read my recent blog post on brewing Cream Ale with two yeasts, you’ll know I also used Wyeast 1007 German Ale (because there was only one packet of Kölsch left), which is similar but with a cleaner ester profile. Of course, you could certainly use a lager yeast here if you can ferment cooler.
If you’re looking at using White Labs or Imperial Yeast, I’d suggest trying White Labs’ WLP080 Cream Ale Blend, or either G03 Dieter or G02 Kaiser from Imperial.
You can bottle or keg this beer, but as the traditional style calls for lively carbonation, plan accordingly. If bottling, I’d usually recommend bottle with ¾ cup of corn sugar (or ⅔ cup of cane sugar) for priming, but to up this a bit you could probably use ⅞ cup of corn sugar.
Recipe: Billy Chinook Cream Ale (extract)
For this extract recipe, I would recommend using light (or extra light if you can find it) malt extract, either liquid or dry form. Hop schedule and yeast remains the same, and if you can boil at least all five gallons that is best, though I would avoid boiling longer than 60 minutes. (I’ve noticed that extract tends to scorch more.)
4.5 pounds light or extra light liquid malt extract (LME)
OR 4 pounds light or extra light dried malt extract (DME)
0.5 pounds cane sugar or corn sugar
1 pound American six-row malt
1 pound flaked corn
1 ounce East Kent Goldings Hops (4.84% AA) – 60 minutes – 4.84 AAU
1 ounce Cascade hops – aroma (0 minutes)
Wyeast 2565 Kölsch or Wyeast 1007 German Ale
Yes, with the use of six-row malt and flaked corn, you’re going to be doing a mini-mash here. Normally my specialty grains recommendation is to add them to your water to steep as it heats up. A grain bag will make things easier, or simply scoop the grains out with a strainer. I always add the grains to the cold water, and then scoop them out (or remove the bag) when the water reaches about 170-180° at the hottest.
For the mini-mash, though, you can start cold but when you water hits about 150° try to hold it at that temp for at least 30 minutes if you can. After that you can let them warm up and remove them by 180°.
Once you’ve removed the grains and the water is hot but not yet boiling, remove your kettle from the heat and add your extract and sugar, stirring constantly. This will help prevent scorching as the extract first sinks to the bottle of the kettle before dissolving.
Note the use of sugar here. I’m recommending it to achieve the desired gravity while lightening the body and drying it out a bit. If you want to omit the grains, and keep the sugar, a perfectly acceptable method, you could increase it to one pound overall, but don’t go over that. If instead you want to omit the sugar entirely (but keep the grains), then increase your LME to 5.5 pounds or your DME to 4.5 pounds.
Follow the same steps from boiling as for the all-grain recipe above.
Years ago I did post another Cream Ale extract recipe, more complex than this one but still perfectly valid, with the only difference being, I would boil for 60 minutes rather than the 30 I advocated back then.
Finally, in case you’re wondering, the name “Billy Chinook” comes from local Central Oregon history and geography. In modern times, Lake Billy Chinook is the name of the reservoir near Madras formed from the conjunction of the Crooked, Deschutes, and Metolius Rivers, and is a popular recreation spot. It in turn was named for Billy Chinook, who was a chief and member of the Native American Wasco tribe and was a guide for John C. Frémont and Kit Carson, who explored Central Oregon from 1843 to 1844 and from 1845 to 1847.
Here is the Oregon beer news for this Tuesday, July 10. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with the latest news and events as I find them, so check back from time to time. And feel free to contact me to send any news my way!
The Bier Stein (Eugene) is hosting Flight School with Aaron Brussat this evening starting at 6pm: “Join us for a fun “Flight School” of classic German ale styles, and learn about the brewing methods and history that make these beers unique. We will also talk about how these beers can be paired with food. Aaron is a certified Cicerone, beer blogger, homebrewer, and editor of the Northwest Brewing News. Flight School is for anybody who wants to expand their knowledge of beer! Tickets can be purchased in advance for $15 at the bar. Seating is limited!”
Deschutes Brewery (Bend): Tuesdays are Community Pints day at the Deschutes locations, where $1 of every pint sold goes to benefit a local non-profit. In Bend today, the Pub and Tasting Room are donating that $1/pint to Heart of Oregon Corps; in Portland, the Pub is donating to Shriners Hospitals for Children. Good causes all around, so make sure to head over to your local Deschutes and help out with a pint or three today.
Oregon City Brewing has its Charity Pint Night today starting at 5pm, benefiting Friends of Milwaukie Center: “Let’s help some friends! Our Charity Pint Night for July 10th is Friends of the Milwaukie Center, an organization that aims to support programs and services that aids community outreach. Come support your local community by raising a glass! Cheers, Pioneers!”
Cascade Brewing (Portland): Tonight’s Tap It Tuesday at the Barrel House at 6pm is featuring Vitis Hibiscus: “A blend of sour blond and wheat ales aged in oak wine barrels for up to 16 months with fermented chardonnay juice, then infused with dried hibiscus flowers and rose petals. Combining components of both our Vitis Noble and Rose City Sour blends, Vitis Hibiscus layers flavors of watermelon, pomegranate and rose over base notes of dry chardonnay wine. Head Cellarman Eric Burda oversaw the rose petal infusion process!”